Atchison out as SeaWorld CEO, layoffs coming

Posted Friday, December 12, 2014 8:15 AM | Contributed by Jeff

With its stock price suffering and attendance dropping, SeaWorld announced Thursday that CEO and President Jim Atchison is stepping down and it is laying off employees. Atchison's severance package will include a cash payment of $2.4 million. He will also receive an annual consulting fee of $440,000. And he will be eligible for continued vesting of stock options.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Friday, December 12, 2014 8:21 AM

This should have happened at least a year ago. The company was starting to look like Cedar Fair in Kinzel's last few years. Earnings take a bath this year, and there were almost no big cap ex projects other than the drop tower at BGT, which opened late. Gosh, Disney and Universal have a great year with new attractions... what a mystery!

What pisses me off to no end is that the company is on a slide and he gets millions for his trouble. Executive contracts are so broken.

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Friday, December 12, 2014 9:38 AM

The poster-child for "multi-million-dollar executives" that aren't performing in a way that makes them worth the money...

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Friday, December 12, 2014 11:27 AM

Bingo. The "let's ignore Blackfish and it will go away" plan worked real well. They should have jumped on this from the get go.

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Friday, December 12, 2014 1:23 PM

Perhaps they should have showed Blackfish in their parks as an upcharge attraction. ;)

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Friday, December 12, 2014 2:25 PM

If I was expecting 2.4 million separation pay I wouldn't do much more than smoke cigars and pee on the desk every day.

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Friday, December 12, 2014 3:12 PM

So, nothing out of the ordinary, then?

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Friday, December 12, 2014 3:37 PM

I don't think the impact of the movie of lies was significant. I think not building anything new when your competitors did is the problem.

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Friday, December 12, 2014 4:28 PM

If the movie wasn't so impactful, why have they sent multiple emails begging people to market to their families and tell their friends how great Sea World is, and how wrong Blackfish is? Not one email, several.

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Friday, December 12, 2014 7:09 PM

Playing devil's advocate, they could be attempting to capitalize on the film in order to ultimately benefit rather than be harmed. I'm not saying it's likely (far from it) but there are always alternate theories.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014 2:09 AM

I suppose you could argue that emails, being a (relatively) inexpensive way to advertise, would allow the company to reach out to specific demographics (such as persons likely to be alarmed by Blackfish) at little cost and potential benefit.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014 12:44 PM

Hey, you never know how these things work (unless you're a psychology and marketing expert). I did say that it's unlikely, however.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014 1:35 PM

Seaworld laid off 300 employees yesterday. Merry Christmas.

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Monday, December 15, 2014 5:35 AM

We were able to a 2 park fun card for $99 at BGW this past season that was good from the Spring opening to August 30.

Any other time we've gone to Williamsburg we had to pay almost full price to get in. They were discounting very heavily. When we visited over the 4th of July weekend it was packed. I thought they were doing well.

We went back for their Halloween event, and during the day everything was a walk on. Later in the day when the Halloween activities were starting the park was packed.

I really thought they were having a good year. We have talked about going for their Christmas event. Not sure if we'll make it or not.

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Monday, December 15, 2014 9:02 AM

Does anyone go along with me to harken back to the days of Anheiser Busch, thinking it was a much, much better time for these parks? It seems since Blackstone took over the places have just gone kind of meh.

Maybe AB used their deep pockets to subsidize the parks all along, as Busch Gardens started as a place for patrons to enjoy while they promoted their breweries and products. And now that an actual amusement park company is at the helm, maybe it's clear that the places can't quite stand alone. Perhaps it's a growing process, but it would explain the trimming of the fat. There have been a few new attractions but spread few and far between throughout the chain. And these layoffs are just disturbing. Maybe it will all turn around one day, but I hope it's not writing on the wall.

And I'm no expert, so I'm using words like "maybe" and "perhaps". But something ain't right here and it's noticeable. In no way do I blame Blackfish for the trouble. I think it goes back to the removal of free beer.
:-)

Edit to replace Palace with Blackstone. Duh.

Last edited by RCMAC, Monday, December 15, 2014 9:07 AM
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Monday, December 15, 2014 9:57 AM

Blackie said:

Seaworld laid off 300 employees yesterday. Merry Christmas.

Hey, as long as the whales are happy...

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Monday, December 15, 2014 10:25 AM

I think AB was fine, and so was Blackstone. Things definitely appeared suboptimal under InBev. When they went public, I know Blackstone still had influence as a major investor, but beyond that they could largely run their own show. Atchison I believe was at the helm most of that time.

Blackfish is a distraction. Of course they respond to it, but that doesn't mean the dots connect to failure. If your biggest park executes a series of erratic pricing and discount schemes against competition that built significant new attractions, and you built nothing, of course you're going to take a hit. You would think they would have at least kept up on pushing the Swirling Hockeypucks To Penguinland, but they didn't.

The most ridiculous thing is cutting 300 jobs while still profitable. Replace the dead weight, absolutely, but if this is simply a cost-cutting move, it's short-sighted. It's bad enough they don't invest in the right cap ex, but not investing in the right people is a terrible idea.

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Monday, December 15, 2014 11:50 AM

My friends at SW and BGT said they literally "brought in the Bob's".

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Monday, December 15, 2014 4:26 PM

Hopefully they don't move Milton... or take his Swingline.

~Rob

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Monday, December 15, 2014 8:34 PM

As long as they wear enough flair

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